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  1. Life & Culture

Exterior decorating: updating with paints, trims

Color and decorative pieces can improve the look of a home outside as well as inside. Add trim boards, columns or porch accessories, and you can dress up the facade of a house, improving its value and curb appeal.

Just be sure to consider the home's style, age and location.

"The style of the house drives the type of materials you might add," said architect Carolyn Dias of Lampert Dias Architects in San Clemente, Calif.

Neighborhood associations or local building departments also might impose restrictions on what can be done to a home's exterior and which paint colors can be used.

In any case, pay attention to how neighboring homes look when changing yours. You want your house to look as if it belongs, said Shari Hiller of PBS's Around the House with Matt and Shari.

She recommends scouting nearby streets for inspiration.

Paint

See which colors the neighbors have chosen, which features they are highlighting and how many colors they have used.

Hiller typically recommends just two to four colors for a house's exterior. Often, homeowners choose one color for the bulk of the house; a similar or complementary color for windows, gutters and other trim pieces; and a pop of contrasting color on the front door or shutters.

Highlighting the door or shutters with color is an easy way to make a big impact, said Hiller. And drawing attention to the front door is always a good idea.

"You want people to notice where guests generally enter your home," she explained.

Consider the roof color as well, she added. Roofs tend to be in either cool or warm colors, and your paint choice should be in the same family.

Where you live could drive your choices. For example, Florida houses tend to be painted in a different palette — often shades of peach, beige and gold — than homes in New England or the Midwest, said Hiller, who lives in Sarasota. Some colors, such as maroon and other earthy shades, make more sense on Colonial homes than on coastal cottages, which are often painted in ocean-inspired blues and greens, she said.

Trim, embellishments

Veneers — layers of material added after construction that do not offer structural support — are another way to change the outside of a home. Adding a wood, brick or stone veneer creates color and texture, Dias said. Veneers cost about $10 to $20 a square foot.

Exterior wainscoting panels are another way to add interest to a facade. The panels, usually embellished with a raised or recessed design, can draw attention to a window, a porch or other architectural details.

If you have a front porch, you can create a new look by adding or embellishing columns, said Dave Morris of Nashville, Tenn., who operates the website front-porch-ideas-and-more.com.

Changes can be simple, such as hanging decorative brackets where the columns meet the roof, or complex, such as installing columns or adding stone or brickwork to them. Morris, too, emphasizes staying true to the architectural style of your home. For example, don't add Victorian-style gingerbread trim to a modern house.

Brackets and balusters come in a variety of materials and styles.

"Think about what effect you want to have — something subtle or something that really stands out," Morris said.

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